The Health Benefits Of Bananas
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The Health Benefits Of Bananas

Rich in antioxidants, the banana would prevent the appearance of many diseases. In addition, the sugars it contains would help maintain good gastrointestinal health. 

From a culinary point of view, there are 2 types of bananas: dessert bananas, like the ones we eat for breakfast, and cooking bananas, like plantains.

Banana characteristic

  • Source of gentle fiber;
  • Excellent source of potassium;
  • Promotes satiety;
  • Regulates transit;
  • Rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Nutritional and caloric values ​​of bananas

NutrientsRaw banana (sweet), 100 gBanane plantain crue, 100 g 
Calories90,5122
Proteins1,06 g1,28 g
Carbohydrates19,7 g29,6 g
Lipids< 0,5 g0,39 g
Dietary fiber2,7 g2,3 g
Glycemic load: Moderate
Antioxidant power: High

Focus on the micronutrients contained in bananas

Bananas have their own nutritional profile. Among other things, it contains various nutrients essential to the good health of the body. Among these nutrients, we can mention the following: 

  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): bananas are an excellent source of vitamin B6 and plantains are a good source;
  • Manganese: bananas are a good source of manganese for women, but only a source for men;
  • Vitamin B9 (folate): bananas and plantains are sources of vitamin B9;
  • Vitamin C: bananas and plantains are sources of vitamin C;
  • Copper: Bananas and plantains are sources of copper;
  • Magnesium: bananas and plantains are sources of magnesium;
  • Potassium: bananas and plantains are sources of potassium;

The benefits of bananas

Thanks to its unique composition, the flesh of the banana turn out to be a real daily health ally. Satisfying, and rich in dietary fiber and micronutrients, it has its place as part of a varied and balanced healthy diet. 

Cancers

A prospective study, carried out among 61,000 Swiss women, demonstrated a link between high fruit consumption and a lower risk of suffering from kidney cancer. 

Of all the fruits studied, the researchers found the strongest relationship with bananas. The banana would have the same beneficial effect on the risk of colorectal cancer, both in women and men.

stomach ulcers

Some in vitro and animal studies tend to show that bananas in the form of an extract (especially plantain, but also the dessert variety) could protect the stomach lining against ulcers. 

A study has shown that the extract of 2 varieties of bananas grown in Thailand (Palo and Hom) would have a gastroprotective potential in rats. However, only the Hom variety is said to have an effect on healing ulcers. 

This type of banana would be close to the Cavendish, the most widespread variety in the world. Current research, however, is insufficient to recommend the consumption of bananas for the prevention or treatment of gastric ulcers.

Chronic diarrhea 

A few studies conducted in Bangladesh have shown that eating bananas can reduce the symptoms of chronic diarrhea in children. 

In some cases, a mixture of rice and cooked plantains or a mixture of rice and pectin could decrease the number and weight of stools, as well as the duration of diarrhea in babies. In other cases, the consumption of unripe bananas (½ to 3 bananas per day, depending on the age of the children) hastened the healing of acute and chronic diarrhea. 

Another study carried out in Venezuela showed that a diet comprising a preparation based on cooked plantain reduced the number and weight of stools, the duration of diarrhea, and promoted weight gain, compared to a traditional preparation based on yogurt.

Also, the unripe banana contains resistant starch, a type of sugar that resists the action of digestive enzymes (in the same way as dietary fiber) and which goes intact in the colon. 

Under the action of the intestinal flora, the undigested starch then undergoes a fermentation there, which transforms it into fatty acids with short chains (for example butyric acid). 

These stimulate the absorption of liquids and salt in the colon, thus reducing the loss of water in the stool. Short-chain fatty acids would also indirectly improve the permeability of the small intestine, a phenomenon that helps relieve the symptoms of diarrhea.

Cardiovascular illnesses

A study indicated that high consumption of bananas during a meal (400 g, or more than 3 bananas) reduced the free radicals present in the body, 2 hours after the meal. 

This diet decreased the oxidation of LDL-cholesterol (bad cholesterol), a process involved in the development of cardiovascular disease. However, other studies will be necessary in order to target the effects of bananas in the longer term and with more moderate doses.

Type 2 diabetes 

The resistant starch (a type of sugar) in unripe bananas is said to contribute to weight loss in obese individuals suffering from type 2 diabetes, as well as to improve the sensitivity of cells to insulin. 

A resistant starch extract from unripe bananas is also thought to lower insulin secretion and glycemia (blood sugar levels) in both healthy individuals and those with type 2 diabetes.

Researchers have observed that resistant starch decreases the absorption of sugars consumed at the same time, which leads to a decrease in glycemia (blood sugar level). 

Additionally, regular consumption of resistant starch would lead to a greater increase in mealtime ghrelin, a hormone that has been linked to improved insulin sensitivity.

Antioxidants and carotenoids

Although the banana is not among the fruits that contain the most antioxidants, it still has a high antioxidant capacity, which could possibly help prevent the onset of certain cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and various chronic diseases. 

The very popular Cavendish banana is said to contain dopamine, a molecule from the catecholamine family. Dopamine demonstrated antioxidant activity similar to that of vitamin C, the most potent water-soluble antioxidant. As banana contains both dopamine and vitamin C, this could explain their high antioxidant capacity. 

Plantain is also an important source of several phenolic compounds that are well absorbed by the body, thus optimizing their antioxidant potential.

A flavonoid antioxidant, leucocyanidin, has been extracted from unripe plantains. This active compound has demonstrated a protective effect against the erosion of the stomach lining, following the intake of aspirin.

The plantain banana contains beta and alpha-carotene, 2 carotenoids with the ability to transform into vitamin A in the body. Of all the carotenoids, beta-carotene is the most efficient in converting to vitamin A. 

The latter promotes the growth of bones and teeth, keeps the skin healthy, and protects against infections.

Nutritionist’s word

Plantains contain more resistant starch than sweet bananas. Also, as the banana ripens, the amount of resistant starch decreases to such an extent that only bananas that have not reached their optimum ripening stage would contain resistant starch in significant amounts.

How to choose the right banana?

The Health Benefits Of Bananas
Photo by Eiliv Aceron on Unsplash

If the annual consumption of bananas per person is 2 kg in China, 10 kg in Europe, and 12 kg in the United States, it increases to 50 kg in Oceania and 210 kg or more in African countries. from the east. A variable consumption, therefore, for this fruit with a unique nutritional profile. 

ID card

  • Family: Musaceae;
  • Origin: Africa and Asia;
  • Season: October to January;
  • Color: green to yellow;
  • Flavor: sweet.

Choose the banana according to its color  

The more green marks the banana has, the less ripe it is and the longer it will keep. It can then be used for cooking. On the other hand, it will have to be left to mature before consuming it raw, because at this stage, it is indigestible. 

It is ready to eat when the flesh yields slightly to pressure and the skin is very yellow and slightly tiger-colored, without any green coloration. 

When it shows brown or black spots, it has passed this stage and is then better suited for cooking. Note that small bananas are generally sweeter than large ones.

The plantain banana is generally sold when its skin is green.

Derivatives

You can find a pink-red banana in specialized grocery stores, which can be eaten raw or cooked. Commercial dried bananas often contain added sugar: read the label carefully.

“Banana essence”, which is used to flavor liqueurs and confectionery (as well as certain processed cheeses), is in fact amyl acetate, a synthetic substance obtained from the acid acetic. Natural banana essence is too volatile to be of culinary interest.

Finally, there are frozen banana leaves in Asian grocery stores, which can be used to cook food in foil.

When to peel the banana? 

Do not peel the banana until ready to eat or prepare it, because its flesh oxidizes on contact with air. If it is necessary to peel it in advance, it is lightly lemoned.

The plantain peels more easily after it has been blanched for 5 minutes in salted boiling water.

Store well

  • Room temperature: since the banana darkens when it comes into contact with cold, it is recommended to keep it at room temperature, in a fruit bowl, or on the counter. To hasten the ripening of green bananas, put them in a brown paper bag;
  • Freezer: Remove the skin and freeze it whole, in pieces, or mashed. Sprinkle with lemon juice at the exit of the freezer to prevent its oxidation.

How to prepare the banana

From a culinary point of view, there are 2 types of bananas: dessert bananas and cooking bananas. In this last category, the plantain banana is by far the most widespread. 

For each of these types, there is a multitude of varieties giving fruits that vary considerably in size, shape, color, and flavor. Most of these varieties are unknown outside their countries of production. 

The main banana-producing countries are located in Latin America and Asia, as well as Africa for cooking bananas. Virtually all dessert bananas exported worldwide come from a single variety, the Cavendish.

Cook bananas in a sweet version 

  • Cooking bananas in a cake is possible with our banana bread recipe ;
  • Raw, as is, added to fruit salads, cereals, in pancakes, or on skewers, with other fruits;
  • In mousses, sorbets, ice creams. Or mash very ripe bananas and add them to the preparations of bread, muffins, cakes, pies, etc.;
  • Put it in a blender with milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, soy milk or tofu, and other fruits if desired;
  • Frozen bananas. Take them out of the freezer and let them thaw slightly. Whip or place in a food processor until you obtain a mousse with a texture reminiscent of ice cream;
  • With coconut milk. Bring coconut milk to the boil with honey, add banana pieces, heat, and serve.

… Or in a savory version for even more originality 

  • Fry chunks of ripe plantains in olive oil and serve as a side vegetable;
  • Add chunks of plantain or green banana to curries or other types of stews;
  • Cucumber salad. Cut bananas and cucumbers into cubes. Mix them with lemon juice, chopped cilantro, grated coconut (preferably fresh), finely chopped hot pepper, and pieces of peanuts. Salt, refrigerate for 30 minutes, and serve;
  • Potato salad. Cook the diced potatoes. At the end of cooking, add sliced ​​bananas and cook for 1 minute more. Drain, add capers, and black olives, and season with a mustard vinaigrette. Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours before serving;
  • Another salad. Slices of bananas, pieces of apple, shallot, and chopped celery. Add yogurt, a little lemon juice, and, if desired, mayonnaise. Refrigerate and serve over lettuce leaves with chopped walnuts and dry-roasted in a skillet;
  • Raita. Brown mustard seeds in a little clarified butter. Add grated coconut, cook for a few minutes and remove from heat. Add yogurt, banana slices, and chopped coriander leaves, pour into a bowl, and refrigerate for 1 hour. Serve with a spicy curry;
  • Plantain fish. Brown fish fillets in butter or oil, turning once. Add lime juice with curry powder, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Add pieces of plantain split lengthwise, cook for another 5 minutes and serve;
  • Thai style. Cook the black beans left to soak the day before until they are tender. Alternatively, cook glutinous rice in thick coconut milk with a little honey, until the milk is fully absorbed and the rice is fluffy. Cut a sheet of aluminum foil into rectangles of 15 cm by 25 cm. Place a small amount of cooked rice at one end of a rectangle, to which you will have added a spoonful of black beans, cover with a piece of banana split in two, then another layer of rice with beans, and fold the aluminum foil over way to form a package. Steam for 15 minutes and serve.

Fruit for a multitude of possible cooking 

  • Poach the green dessert bananas in their skins (after washing them). They will then be more digestible and can be eaten without any other preparation or added to various dishes.
  • You can also poach or steam ripe bananas, whole or cut them into sections. It takes about ½ hour of cooking; Warm green dessert bananas, previously cooked, in a mixture of olive oil and vinegar, with onion, garlic, bay leaf, salt, and pepper for a few minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and leave to marinate for 24 hours. Serve as a condiment;
  • Pierce the skin of whole bananas with a fork and put them in an oven set at 200°C (400°F) for fifteen minutes. Serve with a sauce of melted butter and lemon juice, a coulis
  • fruit, or any other sauce of your choice. Or split peeled bananas in half and bake them in the oven. Serve with meat, garnished with roasted peanuts.

Contraindications

Although excellent for health, the banana remains an allergenic fruit for many people. It is therefore advisable to be careful and attentive to the signs of a possible oral allergy, which can have serious consequences if it is not treated in time. 

Beware of allergies

Banana is a food implicated in oral allergy syndrome. This syndrome is an allergic reaction to certain proteins from a range of fruits, vegetables, and nuts. It affects some people with allergies to environmental pollen and is almost always preceded by hay fever.

Thus, when some people eat the banana raw (cooking usually degrades allergenic proteins), an immunological reaction may occur. 

These people experience itching and burning sensations in the mouth, lips, and throat. Symptoms may appear and then disappear, usually within minutes of eating or touching the offending food. In the absence of other symptoms, this reaction is not serious and banana consumption does not have to be systematically avoided. 

However, it is recommended to consult an allergist to determine the cause of reactions to plant foods. The latter will be able to assess whether special precautions should be taken.

People allergic to latex may demonstrate hypersensitivity to bananas as well as other foods such as kiwi and avocado. Reactions are diverse, ranging from hives to anaphylactic reactions. 

Given the potential seriousness of the reactions, very special care should be taken when consuming these foods in people who know they are allergic to latex. 

Again, it is recommended to consult an allergist in order to determine the cause of reactions to certain foods as well as the precautions to be taken.

Image Credit: Photo by Mike Dorner on Unsplash

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